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Friday, 02 November 2018

Prosecutors unable to take on new sexual abuse cases, claims Huddersfield MP

Written by Richard Wheeler

Men suspected of committing "dreadful offences" against children are not being pursued by prosecutors due to a lack of resources, ministers have been warned.

Labour's Barry Sheerman (pictured) cited "senior police sources" as claiming the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) does not have the capacity to take on new cases linked to such abuse.

Attorney General Geoffrey Cox, the Government's chief legal adviser, said the matter would be of "profound concern" if true and confirmed he would look into it.

Mr Sheerman represents Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, where four members of a grooming gang who sexually abused vulnerable girls were recently convicted of a string of offences.

Speaking in the Commons, Mr Sheerman said: "Is the Attorney General aware that a group of MPs - cross-party - have had dreadful crimes against children, have been told by senior police sources very recently that the CPS has not got the capacity to be able to take on new cases so that men that they know have dreadful offences against children, these cases are not being pursued because the Crown Prosecution Service does not have the resources.

"That's a very serious worry."

Mr Cox replied: "If it were true I'd say to (Mr Sheerman) I would share your profound concern and I will look into it as a consequence of him raising it this morning."

Labour MP Nick Smith (Blaenau Gwent) earlier warned: "The CPS has lost more than 400 prosecutors due to cuts since 2010.

"Is this why the outgoing director of the CPS (Alison Saunders) says our criminal justice system is creaking?"

Mr Cox replied: "I noted carefully the DPP's concerns on that matter.

"The performance, the conviction rates of the CPS are still at the highest they have been in many years, and therefore they don't show any sign that it is creaking as a consequence of manpower.

"What I think the DPP was referring to was something that is a real challenge we have to face and that is the increasing volumes of evidence - particularly digital evidence from smartphones and computers - that is placing a real strain both on the police and the Crown Prosecution Service.

"That is something I shall be tackling shortly in the review that I'm publishing on disclosure."

In a statement, a CPS spokesman said: "Resourcing issues play no part in CPS charging decisions.

"Wherever there is sufficient evidence to prosecute and it is in the public interest, we will always do so."

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